Smoky Lo Mein With Shiitake and Vegetables
The best kind of restaurant-style stir-fried lo mein is subtle in flavor, with plenty of wok hei, the smoky flavor that results from the powerful flame of a restaurant wok burner licking up and over the back of the wok, singeing the oil and noodles. To create a similar taste at home, you can use a hand-held blowtorch, which you can pass over the noodles after stir-frying them. Either a butane canister with a high-output torch head or a propane canister with a trigger-start head are best. If you do not have a wok, a heavy cast-iron or stainless steel skillet can be used instead.
- Serves: 2 persons
- Kosher salt
- 8ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles (see Note)
- Rice bran, peanut, canola or other neutral, high-temperature frying oil
- 4ounces fresh shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
- 4ounces Napa or green cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1small carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
- 1small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 3scallions, trimmed, cut into 2-inch segments, then thinly sliced lengthwise
- 3medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- ½teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼teaspoon white pepper
- 2ounces mung bean sprouts (about 3/4 cup), sprouted end picked off and discarded
Step 1Bring a large pot or wok of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles for 1 minute, then drain thoroughly and transfer to a sheet tray. Toss noodles with 1 tablespoon neutral oil to prevent sticking, spread into a single layer and set aside.
Step 2Using a paper towel, rub a very thin film of neutral oil into a wok or skillet, then set over high heat until lightly smoking. Add 1 tablespoon neutral oil and swirl to coat. Add the shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, carrot and onion, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Toss a few times, then let the vegetables sit without disturbing until lightly charred on one side, about 20 seconds. Toss and stir, then let them sit and char again. Repeat several times until the vegetables are tender-crisp and lightly charred on multiple surfaces, 2 to 5 minutes total.
Step 3Transfer vegetables to a sheet tray and spread into a single layer. Place the tray of vegetables and the tray of noodles on a heatproof surface, such as on top of your burner grates.
Step 4Ignite your blowtorch and, holding the flame 2 to 3 inches above each tray, sweep across the vegetables and noodles until a smoky aroma reaches your nose, about 15 seconds per tray. (You should hear a distinct crackle and see small bursts of orange flame as the oil on the vegetables and noodles jumps and combusts.) Toss the noodles and the vegetables with a pair of tongs, and torch again.
Step 5Wipe out the wok and return to high heat until lightly smoking. Add 1 more tablespoon of neutral oil and swirl to coat. Add the scallions and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Immediately add the vegetables and noodles to the wok and stir-fry until homogenous. Add a small amount of neutral oil to the edge of the wok, and on the same spot, add the soy sauces and wine, which should sizzle immediately.
Step 6Add sesame oil, white pepper and mung bean sprouts. Toss everything in the wok until coated in sauce and the bean sprouts are lightly wilted, about 30 seconds. Add more neutral oil as necessary to keep noodles loosened. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.